New season brings exciting batting challenges

After a very relaxing winter away from cricket it’s been nice to get back into the swing of things again and though Kent’s results maybe haven’t been going our way initially it has been great to get back out into the middle. All we need now is some warmer weather.

I spent December and January in Australia and played no cricket at all. It was purely a family visit to spend Christmas with them for the first time in a long time, and then I stayed on for my sister’s birthday.

To have a rare chance to do that does make me realise what I’ve given up for the game, and though I’d be the first to say that cricket’s been good to me, I have had to put in the hours and the work to get to where I am.

I took that relaxed approach into pre-season training as well because I felt very comfortable in myself last year and had forged in my mind, possibly for the first time, how I wanted to play the game for Kent.

That feels pretty much engrained in my mind and body now, so there seemed little point in changing things too much when it came to pre-season this year.

All I’ve had to do this spring is a bit of fine-tuning and building up the stamina gradually, and overall I’ve not hit as many balls in the nets as I did this time last year. But I didn’t feel it was necessary.

I’ve been pretty easy-going down the years, and still am to a degree, but I like contributing to the team and previously I felt the club weren’t maybe making the most of me. I was being shoved up and down the batting order to fit in wherever, which wasn’t doing me good because I wasn’t enjoying batting so much.

Last year, however, my role was clearly defined in County Championship cricket. I batted at No 3 and kept wicket and it will be that way again this year. I scored 1,000 runs in 2009 for the first time, which has to be my ambition for this season as well.

The question is, can I do the same job in Division One? The driver for me is that I don’t want last year to be a one-off. I want to prove I can do the same job in the top division.

It will be tougher, there’s no doubt, because there are some good bowlers out there and in the first division there are more of them.

I will try to keep a similar mindset to last year. I will try to remain positive and keep my application and concentration levels as high as I possibly can. I have to be strong mentally and keep strictly to my batting game plans.

As for batting in one-day cricket, I really enjoyed it last year and felt I contributed well and led the way in our efforts to turn a game or win matches.

There is room for improvement, though, and I’m introducing a bit more of a power element, especially for Twenty20, so that I can become a more complete cricketer and maybe travel during our winters to play Twenty20 elsewhere.

To achieve that aim, I feel I have to be a little more dynamic with my batting in 2010.

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